Not everyone’s buying what the UNODC has to sell

With the Commission on Narcotic Drugs continuing this week in Vienna, delegates are in meetings wrangling over slight word changes in amendments without ever addressing the abject failure of the entire operation.

But others are. And the UNODC is having a tougher time getting an uncritical audience.

UN drugs chief sticks to punitive policy despite major failings at The Independent

International efforts to tackle the “global threat” of illicit drugs must be “rejuvenated” in accordance with a 50-year-old convention despite a series of major failings, the head of the UN drugs and crime agency has told The Independent.

This week, Yury Fedotov acknowledged that global opium production increased by almost 80 per cent between 1998 and 2009, and the international market for drugs is now worth as much as $320bn (£199bn) a year – making it the world’s 30th-largest industry.

In the face of such daunting statistics, Mr Fedotov, the new executive-director for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the Single Convention of 1961 – the first international treaty to lay the framework for global drug-control systems – is still the most appropriate mechanism for tackling what he described as the “global, hydra-headed threat” of drugs and crime. He called on member states to “re-dedicate” themselves to the convention to take a tougher line against drug traffickers and “the drug threat originating from Afghanistan”. [...]

Peter Sarosi, drug policy expert for the human rights organisation the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, said: “The continuing focus on criminal justice and prohibition has already proved to be ineffective.” His group protested outside the UN building this week to raise awareness of the undesirable side-effects of drug prohibition.

When you’ve been doing something for 50 years and have nothing to show for it but failure, simply saying that we should rededicating our commitment to it just doesn’t work anymore.

In recent years, there has been a strong movement of NGOs at the CND, including some top international harm reduction movements and reformers. Not all are welcomed fully in the Commission’s discussions, but they create their own events in the area, and are starting to create some real traction. I was heartened by this report from Joep Oomen:

One thing that is becoming clear in this year’s CND is that what happens at the official meeting is becoming less and less relevant. It is above all the side events that are well attended, and where lively discussions are taking place. The CND meetings themselves are endless repetitions of the same mantras. It is the contribution of non-governmental organizations that brings fresh air in the way that drug policies are conceived. When I first came here in 1994 critical NGOs were seen as weirdos, without any exception. Today, it is most of all the governments that insist on maintaining prohibition that fall out of the main picture.

Harm reduction, legal reform etc. is becoming mainstream. Just the Single Convention cannot be touched upon yet. However, this situation can not last much longer.

I only had opportunities to speak to a few delegations. We discussed the situation of the Bolivian amendment to the Single Convention with the Bolivian delegation. It seems that the government of Evo Morales is ready to denounce the Single Convention and then re-subscribe it but with a reservation to the articles referring to traditional coca consumption, just as we described before.

We also spoke to the Uruguayan delegation, who confirmed that a law proposal is likely to be approved that will decriminalise home production of marijuana for own use.

And we spoke to the EMCDDA [European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction] on the subject of drugs and driving. They confirmed that measures to apply zero tolerance to THC doses in driving ability tests do not have any scientific basis, and mentioned scientific research showing that low cocaine doses actually improves the ability to drive. I hope to find the exact data of this research in the coming days.

Nice to see the marginalization of the UNODC mainline in action. The more the better. One of the biggest problems of the very existence of the UNODC is that it provides an additional excuse for countries to wage their punitive and violent drug war against their own people (“we have no choice – it’s demanded by international treaty, don’t you know”).

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *